The fig tree is a tree of great importance in the landscape and rural life of the Canary Islands . It is enough to check the diversity of existing denominations for the different varieties of this fruit, figs of milk or brevas. However, both names are correct and correspond to the seasons of the fruit.
In the Canary Islands alone there are more than 40 varieties of fig trees. In addition, there are currently some 68,000 fig trees registered. In the municipality of Frontera alone, on the small island of El Hierro, there are more than 200 hectares cultivated with this fruit.
The brevera canaria: the tree that gives the milk figs, but also the brevas (fig berries)
The brevera canaria is a cultivar of fig tree of the Ficus carica type. In addition, one of the characteristics of this tree and which makes its fruits receive different names depending on their harvest is that it is a biennial plant, that is, it only bears fruit twice a year.
Taking into account the above, the fruit that is born in spring in the islands is known as breva , that is to say, the first fruit of the fig tree. It usually appears in May and is larger, somewhat more elongated and less sweet than the fig. On the other hand, the milk fig fructifies later, in the summer and autumn months, after the second flowering.
A fruit of great historical importance
According to the chronicles of the first explorers who arrived in the archipelago, they already attested to the presence of fig trees and the consumption of figs by the aboriginal population of the Canary Islands as part of their daily diet.
The fig tree, since its Paleolithic origins, has always been very present in the agrosystems of each of the islands. Thus, we can find this tree cultivated in nateros, enarenados and malpaíses, taking advantage of the low water resources of the Canary ecosystem. It was also very common to plant it on the edges of cultivated land, where they took advantage of the care given to them.
The importance of milk figs in the history of the Canary Islands is evidenced by the large number of remains found in numerous sites, and fig remains have even been found inside the teeth of the aboriginal islanders.
However, with the economic development of the islands in the mid and late twentieth century, the fig tree went from being a pampered species to a marginal species. Its fresh production was mainly destined for self-consumption or to feed livestock. The few plantations that survived at that time were destined to the production of figs for drying, mainly on the island of El Hierro.
At present, the growing consumer demand for fresh milk figs, together with the good prices achieved in the market, have changed the consideration of Canary Island farmers towards this species and more and more commercial plantations dedicated to fresh consumption are appearing.
Most popular varieties of milk figs
As mentioned above, there are more than 40 varieties of fig trees in the archipelago. Among the traditional varieties are:
Bicariño Fig. Variety of long stalks and small size, whose skin is light green and red flesh, late production.
White Fig. Variety of thin and delicate skin and green color, with pink flesh, are of early production and its flavor is highly appreciated for its intense sweetness.
Breva. Figs of elongated shapes, purple skin and flesh of a weak red color and with hardly any stalk. They are very appreciated when eaten "raisined", that is to say, dried in the sun.
Pound fig. Characteristic fruits due to their large size, purple skin and pink flesh.
Gomero or Herreño fig. Very abundant variety in the islands of El Hierro and La Gomera. It is very productive. Dark and purple skin and intense pink flesh and small peduncles. Mostly used to eat "past".
Black Fig. Late variety not too abundant, flattened shape with dark skin and quite hard.
If you are interested in learning more about the gastronomy and the products of the Archipelago, we leave you below several links that may be of interest to you: Almendrados canarios, simple and delicious.; Gastronomy of La Gomera, tradition and flavor; The ancient potatoes of the Canary Islands.
Photos: directoalpaladar.com, elespanol.com